Field Notes: Working with distinct populations during COVID-19

May 1, 2020
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Athletics
  • Competencies
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Enrollment Goals
  • Online and Distance Learning
  • covid-19
  • field notes
student in wheelchair with speaking assistive tech

"Field Notes" is a regular AACRAO Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at connect@aacrao.org.

by Seth Marc Kamen, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Recruitment and Strategy, University of Baltimore

As we strive to meet the needs of our students, certain populations may stay under the radar, especially as it comes to admissions and enrollment.  Here are some thoughts and ideas about how to meet the needs of some of these students.

Military Students 

Approximately 900,000 Veterans and 325,000 active-duty Servicemembers, and their families, are enrolled in US Higher Education Institutions. It’s important that the unique support and specific news relating to their needs and benefits be shared with students, including: 

  • If they have not filed taxes, they may still be eligible for the Stimulus; they should complete a  non-filed form on the IRS website

  • A second G.I. Bill fix ensures that housing allowances will continue, even though education has moved remotely (previously, online education resulted in only ½ of a designated housing allowance). 

If a student is called to active-duty, there are guidelines within the Department of Defense MOU about reenrolling these students. Likewise, there are guidelines about when, if and how students can drop or withdrawal from a class. 

It’s also important to stress that there are many resources available to help with economic hardship, the inability to make payments, homelessness, depression and suicidal thoughts, family dynamics, daycare options, and more. It’s recommended that institutions post these resources on a webpage, host a webinar for students, or simply call and talk with their military students. 

Additional resources may include:

Students with Disabilities

Roughly 7-8% of college-level students request some type of disability support. It’s important to identify ways to meet the needs of students with documented disabilities throughout the application and enrollment process.  While many think about these issues in the traditional sense, COVID-19 has caused many pre-matriculating process to quickly move virtually, and consideration for the needs of these students may not have been considered. 

For admissions and enrollment, ensure that your students can access forms and web pages if they are using a screen reader or may use assistive software to read documents. For consideration:  

  • Forms and applications should be downloadable to be completed by a third party or should be reader accessible (Optical Character Recognition).

  • Web pages should be reviewed for access issues (Many products, like WebAIM, will do a review for free.)  

  • Closed captioning should be activated during online presentations.  

In addition to helping student’s access information, consider policies that may need to be temporarily altered based on access to services, including: 

  • How will standardized tests be used if a student has limited access to take the exam (Although exam companies are providing accommodation requests, many will be relying on homebound resources to offer these accommodations). 

  • Are “required” steps for matriculation or enrollment available for those needing special accommodations? Are tutorials, orientation, etc. available, and can participation be deferred if they can’t access them? 

And, finally, consider psychological disabilities (both documented and undocumented) when making policy changes or decisions. For example:

  • Does your deferment or gap year policies accommodate those who may be struggling with uncertainty?

  • Can students engage enough to successfully complete full-time online classes, or should these students be encouraged to attend part-time, or to take time off?

To learn more, visit the Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD).  

Student Athletes 

Student athletes, both new and continuing, are subject to additional rules and regulations to be eligible for participation in sports. The three major governing boards of collegiate athletics have been very forthcoming with information. 

National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) 

  • For spring 2020 sports only, institutions are not required to file a hardship or for the college president to submit a letter notifying the NJCAA National Office of their decision to cancel the spring 2020 season

  • Visit https://www.njcaa.org/covid19 for additional information. 

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)

  • An exception to initial eligibility rules for incoming freshmen in 2020-21 has been approved. 

  • The spring sport season has been waived, and will not count towards eligibility for transfer or current students. Exceptions may apply. 

  • The use of P/F or S/D/F will not affect eligibility, and the collegiate GPA will continue to be used. These classes can still be used toward eligibility.

  • Additional specifics and information can be found at https://naia.prestosports.com/covid19/legislation-faqs

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 

Join these organizations at AACRAO Coffee Break: Athletics Eligibility in Times of Crisis, a free webinar May 8th at 2pm ET.